A cockroach was crawling up her arm.
Elena Kyler shuddered as she brushed it off. God, how she hated cockroaches. This cell was teeming with them, but at least they weren’t as bad as the rats.
Close it out. Life was not this cell. Go away from here. Think of something beautiful. Father Dominic had always told her that was the only way to endure the unbearable. But this situation was not truly unbearable. The unbearable would be to give in and let that bastard win. So she wouldn’t think of anything beautiful. She didn’t want to bring anything she valued into this filthy cell.
She drew the blanket closer around her. So cold. It was warm during the day, but as soon as the sun set it became chilly. The cell was damper than the huts they’d kept her in on the way here, and the blanket she’d been issued was thin and worn. She hadn’t slept all night.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
There might be more opportunity here. These guards seemed more complacent and they didn’t know her. Just get ready. The time would come.
She threw aside the blanket and started doing the warm-up that preceded her routine. She’d exercised four hours every day since they’d captured her and she was even stronger now. Without weapons, she had to be. She’d eaten every scrap of the meager rations they’d given her to maintain that strength and spent the rest of her waking time planning her escape.
She’d be ready.
“Is he here?” Ben Forbes demanded as soon as he entered John Logan’soffice. “Did you get hold of Galen?”
“He’s here. Or rather he’ll be here in a few minutes.” Logan leaned back in the leather executive chair. “But he told me to warn you that he has no intention of taking the job. He said he’s had enough of all that bull happening in Colombia.”
“Haven’t we all,” Forbes said wearily. “But it goes on and someone has to do something about it.”
“Tell that to Galen. He lost two men on the last extraction job he did down there. He doesn’t like losing men. And he doesn’t like working with the DEA either. He wouldn’t even be coming to this meeting if you guys didn’t go way back.”
“Not as long as the two of you,” countered Forbes. “Can’t you use your influence?”
Logan shook his head. “Galen goes his own way, and you don’t stay his friend by trying to change his mind.”
No one knew better than Forbes that Sean Galen walked to the beat of a different drummer. He had been everything from a mercenary to a smuggler, with a multitude of other shadowy careers in between. But, different or not, he was unquestionably the best at what he did. “I need him, Logan.”
“He got paid over a million dollars for the extraction of that executive he did for Folger’s coffee. Can you match that?”
“Nah,” Galen said, appearing at the doorway. “Not unless he’s suddenly gone on the take. And that’s not likely.” He strolled into the room. “How are you doing, Ben?”
“I’ve been better.” He shook Galen’s hand. “But things could look up for me if you’d cooperate.”
“I just came off a tough job. I’m on vacation.” He sat down in the visitor’s chair. “Logan and I are going deep-sea fishing.”
“You’ll be bored,” Forbes said. “I have something more interesting for you.”
“I could use a little boredom right now.” Galen grinned. “And my mum always said I didn’t play well with others. Particularly the feds. They always want to run the show.”
“Shall I leave?” Logan asked.
“Why should we run you out of your own office?” Galen asked. “This won’t take long.”
Logan leaned back in his chair. “Okay. Pretend I’m not here.”
That would be difficult to do, Forbes thought. John Logan was a powerhouse and not the least bit self-effacing. But then, that’s what it took to reach his position in the business world. It was strange looking at Galen and Logan together. They were as different as stone and quicksilver, and yet the closeness between them was almost visible. Forbes had heard the rumors about Logan’s involvement in some of Galen’s extremely dubious enterprises before Logan became a successful tycoon. Those experiences had clearly forged a bond with Galen that had stood the test of time. Could he use it? “Feel free to jump in, John. I know you contribute heavily to that drug rehab center in Los Angeles.”
Logan shook his head. “You’re on your own.”
Forbes sighed and turned back to Galen. “You wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with the U.S. government. No DEA intervention.”
Galen’s brows raised. “You’re DEA.”
“I’m working on my own on this one.”
“Uncle Sam won’t like that.”
“Tough. It’s part of the deal. It’s the first chance I’ve had to get Chavez in the last ten years.”
Galen’s expression didn’t change, but Forbes could hear a new tone in his voice. “Chavez?”
“Rico Chavez. The Chavez cartel. I believe you’ve had some experience with him.”
“Two years ago.”
“That’s when you lost your two men, isn’t it? You were trying to free William Katz, that coffee exec, from the band of rebels who were holding him for ransom, but Chavez turned loose his men to help them. You weren’t expecting him to do that.”
“Usually it’s the rebels protecting the drug lords down there. So you’re going after Chavez?”
“I’ve been after Chavez for years. I almost got him a few times. This go-round I may have a chance, if you’ll help.”
Galen’s gaze narrowed. “You want me to kill him?”
“No, I want him here in the States, where we can prosecute him. I not only want him, I want to know who’s doing his distributing in this country.”
“Chavez won’t come to the U.S. He’ll stay where he’s safe.”
“Unless he has a good reason to come here.”
Galen shook his head. “You’re out of luck.”
“Maybe not. I got a call two months ago from a woman named Elena Kyler. She said she was with a band of rebels in southern Colombia and wanted me to help her get out and give her protection once she’s in the U.S. She said she was in possession of evidence that Chavez would find compelling enough to draw him out of Colombia.”
“She wouldn’t tell me. She asked me to meet her at a house outside a small village near Tomaco and we’d discuss it.”
“Trap. Chavez wants to take your scalp, Ben.”
“I’m not stupid. I checked with my informants among the rebels and there is an Elena Kyler. Her father was Frank Kyler, an American mercenary who went to BogotÃ¡ over thirty years ago. He married Maria Lopez, a left-wing freedom fighter with the Colombian National Liberation group. They had two children, Elena and Luis. Maria was murdered by government soldiers four years after Elena was born. Evidently, Elena and her brother were raised by their father, who was killed seven years ago. Both Elena and Luis were members of a rebel group in the hills.” He paused. “The hills surrounding Chavez’s coca fields. So there is a connection.”
“You’re reaching for straws.”
“I’ll find out when I see her. She wants me to meet her and be ready. It’s all she asked. It’s worth a shot.”
“It’s not worth being shot.”
He smiled bitterly. “Maybe it is. If we take Chavez out, it will dry up one of the largest suppliers in Colombia. That could save a hell of a lot of kids. You don’t like drug dealers any more than I do, Galen.”
“But I’m more of a realist than you. This would be a finger in the dam. It’s a losing battle.”
“Not this time.” He paused. “I’ve got a hunch. . . . I believe her.”
“Good. Then go get her yourself.”
“It may not be that easy. One of my informants told me that she was on the run from Chavez, that she’s disappeared.” He hesitated. “The word is that she’s been captured and is being held in a prison in Belim.”
“It’s a government jail, but Chavez bribes the warden to house his special prisoners.”
“Then she’ll be of no use to you. If she has any evidence, Chavez will have her tortured until she gives it up.”
“Chavez is at an important meeting with the Delgado family in Mexico City. She may have a reprieve for a while. I’ve heard he likes to do his own dirty work.”
Copyright 2002 by Iris Johansen